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Chemical Engineering

Robin A. Hutchinson, Ph.D.

Professor

Tel: (613) 533-3097
Fax: (613) 533-6637
Email: robin.hutchinson@queensu.ca
Office: Dupuis Hall 426

Publications

Professor

Main

Robin Hutchinson is a polymer reaction engineer with extensive industrial and academic experience. The Hutchinson Research Group Projects focus on improving industrial polymerization processes, and contribute to the design of new polymeric materials by developing a deeper understanding of radical polymerization kinetics and capturing that knowledge in modelling tools. When combined with careful analysis of experimental data, the approach helps to quickly identify what is not known about a process, and leads to new development opportunities.

Dr Hutchinson has a strong publication record, including over 125 refereed papers and conference proceedings with over 5000 citations (h factor of 35). He oversees both Master's and PhD Students as well as undergraduate students working on 4th year independent thesis research projects and sometimes as summer research assistants in his Dupuis Hall laboratories. He involves his students with research collaborations both in Canada and internationally, and has hosted a number of post-doctoral fellows and visiting researchers at Queen's.

He typically teaches two undergraduate couses per year in addition to a fall semester introductory graduate level course in Polymer Rection Engineering.

Experience

Professor, 2007-current - Queen's University (Kingston ON)
Associate Professor, 2000-2007 - Queen's University (Kingston ON)
Senior Research Engineer, 1997-2000 - DuPont (Geneva, Switzerland)
Research Engineer, 1991-1997 - DuPont (Wilmington DE)
Ph.D, Chemical Eng, 1990 - University of Wisconsin (Madison WI)
B.Eng, Chemical Eng, 1985 - McMaster University (Hamilton ON)


Interested in Graduate Studies with the Hutchinson Research Group?

Collaborations

The Hutchinson group collaborates extensively with academic researchers around the world, often involving student exchanges.

Prof. Michael Buback and the Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry Group at the University of Göttingen, Germany

Dr. Hutchinson's relationship with Michael Buback goes back over twenty years. The Buback group has invented most of the pulsed-laser polymerization (PLP) techniques used to study radical termination kinetics and have used PLP combined with EPR spectroscopy to elucidate midchain radical kinetics. We work together on the interpretation of these results, and capturing the findings in mechanistic models developed to simulate batch, semibatch and continuous polymerization processes. Dr. Hutchinson is a frequent visitor to Göttingen, including a six month stay as part of his 2006-07 sabbatical year. We have hosted Göttingen PhD students Nils Wittenberg (3 months in 2010) and Patrick Drawe (2 months in 2014) at Queen's, and our two groups have numerous joint publications.

Prof. Igor Lacík and the Department for Biomaterials Research at the Polymer Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (Bratislava)

Igor Lacík and his group are also long-time collaborators in the ongoing investigations of the polymerization kinetics of water-soluble monomers. The group has performed many of the PLP studies that has led to our new understanding of propagation kinetics in aqueous solution, and is renowned for their expertise in the aqueous phase size exclusion chromatography technique used to measure polymer molar mass distributions. Dr. Hutchinson spent three months in beautiful Bratislava as part of his 2013-14 sabbatical, and several students have spent summer conducting research at PISAS, including Calista Preusser (2013), Thomas Rooney (2015), Sharmaine Luk (2016), and Ikenna Ezenwajiaku (2017).

Prof. Davide Moscatelli at the Politecnico di Milano (Italy)

The Hutchinson group started their collaboration with Davide Moscatelli and his group with a joint study on the application of computational chemistry to the prediction of copolymerization reactivity ratios. Three members of Moscatelli's group – PhD student Marco Dossi (2009), MSc student Raffaele Ferrari (2010), and PhD student Danilo Cuccato (2011) – each spent several months at Queen's to performs PLP experiments. The collaboration was extended to the study of polymers with biomedical applications, with Queen's PhD student Thomas Rooney under joint supervision and conducting research at both institutions. Thomas spent a full year (2013-14) working with the Moscatelli group and the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan,researching the kinetics, preparation, degradation behavior, and biocompatibility of copolymers prepared from novel biodegradable macromonomers. Dr. Hutchinson also spent three months of his 2013-14 sabbatical year with Moscatelli’s group in Milan.

Prof. João Soares, Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta

The Hutchinson and Soares groups are working together to develop effective polymer flocculating agents for the treatment of oil sands tailings. Novel hydrolytically degradable cationic polymeric flocculants synthesized in the Hutchinson lab are systematically tested in the Soares lab, with results published jointly.

Dr. Anatoly Nikitin, Institute of Laser and Information Technologies, Russian Academy of Sciences

Anatoly Nikitin is a frequent collaborator on the modeling of radical polymerization kinetics and the elucidation of rate coefficients by detailed analysis of PLP experimental results. Currently collaborating from a distance, Nikitin has had several extended visits to Queen's, the latest being in 2009.

Dr. Enrique Saldívar Guerra, Centro De Investigación En Química Aplicada, Saltillo (Mexico)

The Hutchinson group was pleased to host Enrique Saldívar at Queen's for six months during his 2012 sabbatical. He and his research group are active in the polymer reaction engineering community, with a particular emphasis on reversible deactivation radical polymerization (controlled radical polymerization) systems. PhD student Iván Zapata-González also spent 8 months at Queen's in 2012-13, resulting in joint publications on the modeling of RDRP and the influence of RDRP reactions on copolymer composition.

Dr. Dagmar D'hooge, Laboratory for Chemical Technology, University of Ghent (Belgium)

Queen's PhD student Kevin Payne spent several months in 2012 working with Dagmar D'hooge and his group in Ghent on the study of ATRP polymerization systems, learning some of the group's sophisticated Monte-Carlo modeling techniques, leading to two joint publications. Dr. Paul Van Steenberge spent the summer of 2016 in Kingston applying MC techniques to the representation of cobalt-mediated radical copolymerization, including the distribution of functional groups among the polymer chains.

In addition to these collaborations that have involved the exchange of students, Dr. Hutchinson is appreciative of the opportunity to spend a portion of his 2013-14 sabbatical with the Polymer Reaction Engineering group at BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany), and with Prof. Jose R. Leiza, Director of POLYMAT at the University of the Basque Country (San Sebastian, Spain).

Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching

Dr. Hutchinson has taught a number of different undergraduate courses throughout his years at Queen's, including Chemical Processes and Systems (CHEE 221), Chemical Reaction Engineering (CHEE 321), Industrial Catalysis (CHEE 323), Technical Communications (CHEE 360), and Quantum Chemistry and Molecular Simulation (ENCH 346). He is currently teaching CHEE 221 as well as Industrial Catalysis (CHEE 323).

Undergraduate Research Supervision

Every year finds two or three 4th year undergraduate students doing research in the Hutchinson labs for an independent research project (CHEE 421 or ENCH 417). In addition, paid summer research positions are sometimes available.  A list of projects done in the lab over the last few years can be found here.

Graduate Teaching

Dr. Hutchinson has developed a graduate course on Polymer Reaction Engineering (CHEE 828), delivered annually. The course introduces the fundamentals of polymerization kinetics and develops the equations for calculation of polymerization rate and polymer quality measures. Process parameters which affect reaction rate, chain composition and molecular weight distribution are examined, and the design of polymer reactor systems is discussed. Consideration is also given to the problems of reactor design in heterophase polymerization.

In the Dupuis Hall graduate classroom

Research Projects

For full details on the current research projects, please visit the Hutchinson Research Group Projects page.

Polymerization Kinetics and Reaction Engineering Projects

Dr. Hutchinson's research interests are in the areas of polymerization kinetics and polymer reaction engineering (PRE), focusing in the area of radical polymerization systems. The work combines the application of specialized techniques such as Pulsed-Laser Polymerization to measure kinetic rate coefficients, the formulation of detailed mechanistic models to represent polymerization kinetics, and the execution of targeted experimental studies under industrially-relevant process conditions to test and validate the models. The improved understanding of polymer processes leads to optimization of current industrial operations, reduces the environmental footprint for both energy and raw materials, and aids in the design of new processes and products. The efforts are motivated and sustained through close interactions with industry and other academic researchers both in Canada and internationally.

Radical Polymerization Kinetics: Fundamental Studies

Although focused on engineering applications, ongoing kinetic studies provide new knowledge of interest to the larger polymer chemistry community. The PLP (pulsed laser polymerization) setup is used to elucidate complex kinetics of copolymerization at high temperatures and propagation kinetics of novel monomer systems for new applications, including biomedical.

Radical Polymerization of Water Soluble Monomers

Water-soluble polymers are used for a wide range of applications in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical, water treatment, and coatings industries. Funded by BASF (Germany), the research captures an improved understanding of the polymerization kinetics in computer models for aqueous phase homo- and copolymerizations of industrial interest.

Radical Polymerization for Solvent-Borne Acrylic Automotive Coatings

Acrylic resins, the base polymer for many automotive coatings, are now produced with lower solvent levels and at higher temperatures than before; the low viscosity material must have sufficient chemical functionality to further react on the surface to form a tough durable coating. Secondary reactions have a marked effect on rate and polymer structure under these conditions. Funded by Axalta Coating Systems (USA), the Hutchinson group is studying the polymerization kinetics of functional monomers and developing detailed models of high temperature multi-monomer polymerizations. A second collaboration with Axalta Coating Systems aims at improving dispersant efficiency for the production of non-aqueous dispersions.

Reversible Deactivation Radical Polymerization (RDRP) Process Development

RDRP, also commonly known as controlled radical polymerization (CRP) techniques are capable of producing polymers with narrow molar-mass distributions and controlled polymer microstructure with potential high value applications. The new chemistries have great promise but some deficiencies must be overcome (residual catalyst; expensive reagents; lower polymerization rate; continuous production techniques) before it is industrially viable, the focus of our research efforts.

Research Group

For full details on Research Group members, please visit the Hutchinson Research Group page.

Current Research Group


Georges Younes MASc (Nov 2016 - current)
Hydrolytically Degradable Cationic Flocculants for Enhanced Water Recovery of Oils Sands Tailings

Loretta Idowu MASc (Sept 2016 - current)
The Effect of Reaction Conditions on Distribution of Functional Groups in Acrylic Copolymers

Ikenna Ezenwajiaku PhD (Promoted 2016 - current)
Kinetics and Modeling of Radical Copolymerization of Water-soluble Cationic Monomers

Sharmaine Luk – MASc (Sept 2015 – current)
Polymerization Kinetics of Bio-renewable Butyrolactone Monomers in Aqueous Solution

Mingmin Zhang PhD (2015 - current)
Design of Acrylic Dispersants for Non-Aqueous Dispersion Polymerization: The Importance of Thermodynamics and the Application of Precise Synthesis

Group members also include undergraduate student researchers and occasional visiting researchers from around the world (listed under Collaborations).

Former group members: where are they now?

Life in the Lab

Lab Capabilities: Follow this link for a brief overview of equipment used in our research.

Conferences: Members of the research group attend conferences on a regular basis. To get an idea of the locations and scope of these meetings, look at the presentations listed on the individual web pages on the Hutchinson Research Group page.

Social Gatherings: Members of the group participate in intramural sports with other graduate students in the department. In addition, we have get-togethers two or three times a year at Dr. Hutchinson's home.  Pictures to be added soon!

Industrial Interactions: Our research is funded from a combination of government and private sources, including NSERC, BASF, and Axalta Coating Systems. Many of the students interact directly with industrial researchers at sponsoring companies through regularly scheduled teleconference/web meetings, as well as company visits.